Gender Inclusive Cabin Information

Gender-Inclusive Overview

Our primary mission at Camp Quest North is to provide an excellent summer camp experience for all community members, especially those of us who may not feel welcome at other camps. The Camp Quest North community strives to be open-minded, critical thinkers who recognize human rights, justice, fairness, and diversity as essential elements of society. We are committed to scientific discovery as contributions to the betterment of human life and strive to experience life and develop as individuals. We believe that overnight camp provides a unique opportunity for growth and development. Given all of this, we feel we can do better for all of our campers.

Among biologists, social anthropologists, sociologists, and many personal experiences, there is a growing understanding that sex and gender identity exists along a spectrum. Although we have not witnessed alienation and bullying at camp based on gender identity, research and experience clearly shows that this happens on a daily basis for some of us. We already address bullying of any person at camp as part of our camp agreements and behavior policies. However, some of us can feel alienated because of practices like cabin assignments based on sex, pronoun use, and bathroom designations which reinforce social norms related to the male/female gender binary. We feel it is important for us to address these issues and set an example to ensure that everyone is welcome and respected at camp and in our community.

Although, we already strive to be welcoming of campers of all gender identities through use of language, cabin options, and grouping campers for activities by either cabin, age, or randomly selected teams, we feel we can do better. In order to continue to provide an inclusive space where all of us feel welcome, we believe it is time to take the next step by assigning cabins in a way that encourages the growth and development of every camper.

We recognize that you may have some questions and concerns regarding gender-inclusive cabins. If they are not addressed on the FAQ page, please contact us.

Resources for talking to your campers about gender:
Talking About Sex and Gender
Gender Unicorn
Picture Books
Middle Grade Books

How will counselors be assigned to cabins?

Cabins will continue to be staffed with at least two adult counselors per cabin who are most equipped to ensure campers have a successful week of camp. We will continue to assign cabin counselors through careful consideration and interviews, just as always.

How are counselors hired?

We are committed to having only safe and knowledgeable counselors at our camp. We run criminal background and National Sex Offender List checks for all counselors each year. We conduct interviews and reference checks for all new counselors and are proud to have a high return rate of counselors (around 80%) who bring great experience and support to our camp community. If we feel a counselor has not met our expectations, they are not asked back to camp.

How will counselors be trained?

Camp Quest North already has well-tested policies and practices that deal with all sorts of behaviors and contingencies that might arise at a summer camp for young people. We address things like bullying, inappropriate behaviors, camp romances, social concerns, privacy, special needs, and anything else you can imagine might happen at summer camp as a matter of policy and practice. Our community has always included lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, trans, and non-binary campers and counselors with accommodations provided as needed. Although we don’t expect that being gender-inclusive will affect any of our best practices, we will be including a more rigorous sex and gender training for all of our counselors and CITs to ensure successful inclusivity.

How will campers be supervised?

Camp Quest North has a strict rule-of-three policy which means that no camper is ever left alone with just one other camper or counselor. For example, if a camper needs to retrieve something from a cabin, they must find another camper and counselor or CIT to bring them. Counselors and CITs who need to speak to a camper alone, must do so within sight and sound of another counselor or CIT. We maintain strong counselor-to-camper ratios and have adequate night supervision as all of our counselors are in cabins overnight. Campers will be fully supervised and have counselors present and organizing their activities all day. These policies protect the safety of everyone at camp.

How will my camper’s privacy be maintained in the cabin/lodging buildings?

Counselors will support camper privacy through clear communication of expectations regarding changing of clothing to be done in private areas (such as a private bathroom or private shower area offered in each lodging building). Each cabin group will have discussions about ways to make everyone feel comfortable in the space during their first night of camp. We have found these conversations to be great ways to help our campers learned concepts of respect, privacy, and personal space. 

What about showers and bathrooms?

Each cabin at our Minnesota camp has a private shower and private toilet. Our Iowa campus also provides access to bathrooms that are single occupancy or can be made single occupancy through thoughtful scheduling. Other restrooms on site will have signage indicating that they are gender-inclusive along with signage indicating the facilities available in each restroom such as urinals. We will ensure that wastebaskets are available in each restroom for the use of hygiene products. 

Can my camper be in a cabin with their friends?

While cabins will be assigned based upon age, we will make an attempt to honor requests to be placed in the same cabin. Most of our activities are not divided by cabin, so there will be ample opportunity for each camper to spend time with their friends even if they are not in the same cabin. Contact us at contact@campquestnorth.org if you have a cabin friend request.

Won’t gender-inclusive cabins encourage romantic relationships?

Many campers and counselors identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, trans, and non-binary. There have been policies in place regarding romantic relationships and we will ensure the policies speak to our new cabin arrangements. However, we expect that gender-inclusive cabin arrangements will not raise any new camper relationship issues. Campers are supervised all day and night. Cabin members will have discussions about ways to make everyone feel comfortable in the space during their first night of camp. We have found that gender inclusive cabin arrangements help campers build additional friendships that were limited due to traditional sex-based cabin assignments in the past. 

What if my camper has questions or concerns before or during camp?

Our counselors will receive additional training on how to respectfully talk to campers who may have concerns, are confused, or feel uncertain about gender inclusive arrangements. We also recommend you talk to your camper before camp to see if they, or you, have any other questions not answered here that we can help answer. 

Isn’t this a lot of work to accommodate a small number of people?

No way! We are doing this for the benefit of all campers. Camp Quest North and many other Camp Quest affiliate camps have shown gender-inclusive cabins involves little work for some really great benefits such as higher numbers of staff for supervision, a reduction in behavior issues, a strengthened sense of community, and more open discussion throughout camp. We have also seen a great amount of campers identifying as trans and nonbinary in recent years who have found our camp to be a safe place to explore those identities.